by Father Andrew Strobl
The path of evangelization goes through Mount Calvary.
There is no sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ apart from the cross of Jesus Christ. The content of the good news is, of course, that Jesus has conquered sin and death through the cross and resurrection. However, the cross is also the means of sharing the good news.
When Jesus shared himself with the world, it led him to the cross. When we share Jesus with the world, we should expect the same.
In fact, Jesus warned us that his disciples would face the same resistance he faced: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:18-20).
The cross is a victory, but it feels like a defeat. In order to evangelize, disciples of Jesus invite others to embrace the victory of the cross, but the process of evangelization can feel like one defeat after another.
It is messy and very difficult to walk with another person to Mount Calvary. Each setback is a temptation to despair. There is a constant pull to give up and even write another person off as “hopeless.”
Pope Francis warns of the temptation to defeatism in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”: “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses.’ Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to St. Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centered lack of trust” (85).
The world needs disciples of Jesus to respond with “aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil” that oppose efforts to evangelize. In the face of temptation and frustration, the prayer of the evangelizer is: “Jesus, I trust in you.”